San Gusmè is a minuscule burg 30 minutes by car from Siena. The last stretch of the road to reach it can be pleasantly or annoyingly winding, depending on your own sensitivity. I personally love it. In fact I could enjoy some views to die for. Above all the sight of the surrounding countryside when you arrive at the foot of the village (where you can easily park).
San Gusmè was once a feud, quoted for the first time in year 867. The walls were built with the help of Siena during the Middle Ages, in order to get defence from the frequent attacks by mercenary troops. With the defeat of Siena in the half 1500s, it became Firenze’s property.
You enter from Porta Senese and you need just a few minutes to visit the whole burg, including the two churches, Santissima Annunziata and Saints Cosma and Damiano. There are no souvenirs shops and basically no shops at all. Just the post office and two or maybe three restaurants.
The first time I came here, I was surprised to see a mini outdoor cinema in the tiny piazza. It was so cute! Wandering along the village, we also spotted locals chatting at the corner of the streets, or sitting on a bench in front of their house… It was really a little gem, out of the regular tourist itineraries.
So I came back gladly to San Gusme and I found the same old times atmosphere and the same pleasant village.
We had dinner in the same place of the previous visit, Sira e Remino. A simple and cheap osteria with a friendly staff. We had an outdoor table and spent a pleasant evening. We had fun reading the menu, that presents a decalogue with precepts like:
- Here we do not hurry. The Chianti marathon take places in October
- Wild boar sauce and mushrooms sauce do not match with grated cheese
- As an osteria, do not judge us like on Masterchef
- If you think our tables are spartan, know that here we do not charge for coperto (by the way… what is coperto?)
Also funny some of the English translations of the dishes. For example, pickled vegetables. In Italian we call them verdure sott’olio or sott’aceto, which means under oil or under vinegar veggies. On the menu they became “under oli”, which is a mix of the two languages. Very funny and forgiveable. Above all because I surely made mistakes too… in this very post.
At the entrance of San Gusmè, if you walk along the exterior walls on the left (parking lot behind you and main door in front of you), you will spot a quirk statue of a man while… hum… relieving himself. On the side, the sign says:
“King, Emperor, Pope, philosopher, poet, farmer and worker: man in his daily functions. Do not laugh, think about yourselves”.
I read two different sides of the story.
- One refers to a 1800s anecdote. The village innkeeper built a public toilet. No one used it though, cause they could not read the sign, since they were all illiterates. Then he built a statue on the side, so that people could understand what the purpose of the toilet was. The statue was nicknamed Luca Cava. Note that if you rearrange the letters, “lu cacava” means “he was pooping” in the local dialect.
- Another version states that this was simply a place where people could “go”, and the waste would then be used as fertilizer.
In any case, at some point the villagers, tired of the pranks of anyone who visited the burg of San Gusme, destroyed the statue. Regretful, they later decided to replace it. And since the eighties they throw a feast to honour this fictional character and irony in general. This so called Festa del Luca takes place at the beginning of September. It is some sort of sagra, with shows and dinners.